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ASJE seeks tuition equality

The Appalachian Online

The Appalachian Social Justice Educators recently started a campaign urging Chancellor Sheri N. Everts to come out with a public statement calling for in-state tuition for undocumented students.

The campaign started after North Carolina Senate Bill 463 was introduced in March by senator Fletcher Hartsell, which would give undocumented students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition at UNC-system schools.

Undocumented students who have attended a K-12 school in North Carolina for at least three consecutive years immediately prior to graduation and have received a high school diploma or GED in the state would be eligible to pay in-state tuition at UNC-system schools under this bill.

Currently, undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition. For the 2014-15 academic year, students paid $13,438 for in-state tuition and fees in comparison to $26,605 for out-of-state students.

“This bill is very different because it was introduced by a Republican and most of these bills have been introduced by Democrats,” said Rachel Clay, senior women’s studies major. “The senate bill is an incentive to get involved but regardless, if the senate bill passes or not we still want Chancellor Everts to come out with a statement for tuition equity in general.”

Clay, vice president of ASJE, along with other members of the club, is encouraging students to send the chancellor emails asking her to come out with a public statement regarding in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Clay said no UNC-system president or chancellor has come out with a similar statement thus far. ASJE’s campaign is not calling for immigration reform, but to provide educational opportunity for all people regardless of citizenship.

“[Everts] would be setting precedent and making

North Carolina history,” Clay said. “While she can’t change the law, she can create a welcoming environment for undocumented students and can create a push for legislature to do more and make other universities fall into place.”

On two occasions, Clay has suggested to Everts that a statement would help improve diversity at Appalachian State University. Currently, the student body’s make-up includes only 12.8 percent ethnic minorities.

Clay estimates that at least 50 emails have been sent to Everts in regards to the campaign. Clay briefly spoke with her after the Forum on Privilege on April 13 and said Everts told her she had received many of the emails.

Clay said she thinks Everts is preoccupied with other prominent issues, while the undocumented students are the first to get left behind or forgotten.

“It’s unfortunate because they’re all interconnected,” Clay said. “If we want to really deal with diversity issues, undocumented students should be at the top of our list. Especially being in Watauga County where we have a huge undocumented population who are going to school at Watauga High School next to Appalachian and are not being welcomed here.”

Clay said the campaign is relevant especially since in 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that K-12 schools are obligated to provide education to all people regardless of citizenship.

“[Undocumented students] are being invested in for years and that’s just going to waste,” she said. “Having them to be able to reinvest into the state that they’ve worked so hard and want to live in so badly is fair, moral, just and economically makes more sense as well.”

Clay said in order for Appalachian to fulfill its mission statement, which includes creating “global citizens” of its students, it should focus not only on global citizenship overseas, but also doing so in the state and community.

“It either needs to be taken out of the mission statement because it’s dishonest or we need institutional support for the global citizens living next door to us,” Clay said.

Kim Jacome, sophomore communication studies major originally from Guatemala, has been living in Bladenboro, North Carolina for 12 years but still pays out-of-state tuition.

“It’s really hard because my parents don’t get benefits and I don’t qualify for financial aid,” Jacome said. “It’s really stressful for me as a person on top of having academic stress. Here at Appalachian, no one really is aware of this situation.”

Jacome said she works with WHS students and a lot of the undocumented population there doesn’t go to college because it’s expensive to pay out-of-state tuition or they’re not aware of the resources available.

Many scholarships or aid available for minority students require that the student is a legal citizen of the United States, which shuts doors for many undocumented students to pay for college if they do want to attend, Jacome said.

Clay said she is working on a student resolution for next semester that would encourage Everts to start centers for scholarships and grants. Just as students are charged about 50 cents for the Student Government Association in student fees, Clay is suggesting that an extra 50 cents are charged solely for a scholarship fund for undocumented students.

“These bills don’t extend the opportunity to non-North Carolina residents, so these are not people in another state coming into North Carolina to take advantage of in-state tuition,” Clay said. “It’s your classmates, neighbors and friends that are being charged twice as much for the same university that you attend after having probably attended the same middle and high school.”

Story: Chamian Cruz, News Reporter

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